Even More: The Show

We sat down with Lydia Thomas (a.k.a. Bloom n Grow Gal) recently to talk about her work and her show Peanut Butter & Jam at Flux, which featured a selection of artists from the SlapCity collective. Lydia is not the type to sit still and she is already getting ready to present her next show, the follow up to More: The Show at the Boxed Quarter earlier this year. More: The Show and the new exhibition Even More: The Show are a platform for Ōtautahi female artists, from painters and illustrators to designers and craft artists, from those who work at home, in the studio or in the streets. The premise is to ensure the scope of creativity is not restricted and that people are empowered to show their work to the world, in many cases, for the first time in an exhibition setting. That intention is revelatory of Lydia’s generous nature, she is infectiously energetic and it is always a pleasure to sit down and chat about what she has in store with the latest Hello, I am the Show event…

It wasn’t too long ago that we sat down to talk about Peanut Butter & Jam

Yes!

I imagine you woke up the next day and were straight onto this new project, right?

Yeah, I have like two days of rest and then I’m like, right, what can I do now? I always tell myself I’m going to have a holiday, that I’ll take a break, but I can’t sit still. I need to be focusing on the next challenge. I wanted to fit another More show in before Christmas, that was my goal. It has definitely been more challenging this time around with COVID, but just having something to look forward to has been the big drive this time, we need this, we can’t keep canceling things and postponing things. I mean, if you are going into lock down then you have to, but I felt like I had to keep this one going!

This show is the second incarnation of the More: The Show concept, with a new line-up of local female artists, was it always something that you thought was going to become a recurring series?

Nah, I didn’t. I mean, I never thought it was going to work! That’s probably terrible to say, but you know, I was like, I’ll just give it a go. I thought that it would only attract a couple of artists, but then more artists wanted to get involved and I just can’t say no to people. So, the show happened, and afterwards I was getting messages asking when’s the next show was coming. I think what excites me about being able to run your own show is that I’m in charge of the rules and I can make the decisions around what kind of art I want. I love giving the opportunity to people who do embroidery or street art and giving them a platform to put it in a show. I’m so excited this time around, I’ve got people showing clothes and mustard tins, it is so out of the box that I really, really like it.

From what I’ve seen already seen, it is a diverse range of artists… 

Yeah, it’s great!

With More: The Show you started with an expectation that it would be small, but then people would say, I’ve got a friend who does this, or I’ve got another friend who does that… Has it been the same this time?

More got a small following on social media and then I created a website which is a collection of the shows and the artists, as well as promoting my own art. I wanted it to become a catalogue. I created a subscription box that people can subscribe to hear about More shows. I realized I needed to actually have a new show that people are going to subscribe to hear about! It’s mind blowing when you start getting subscribers and you have no idea who they are. I don’t really know where half the people have come from, which is great, that’s the point of it, I feel like I’m doing my job! It’s easy if I’m only targeting my friends…

As you grow, everybody brings their own world to it as well and increases the eyes on it, right? Lockdowns have showed us more than ever the importance of having some type of outlet and creating the opportunity for people to reveal what they’re doing is really empowering, for those artists and for you. The artists realise that what they are doing is important, it might not be changing the world, it might be a very personal thing, but it is still really valid and that’s really important…

For Peanut Butter & Jam, I’d approached people teethlikescrewdrivers, who just never associated themselves with being an artist, and he pulled it off and it was amazing, and it’s the same this time around. I’ve got somebody who has produced this beautiful macrame lamp shade and I asked for her artist bio and she was like: artist bio? I’m an artist? Yes, you are! Look at this beautiful masterpiece that somebody’s going to buy and hang and it’s gorgeous. It’s about changing people’s perceptions that what they’re doing is art and it is beautiful.

While it is an all-female line-up, there is no thematic brief, right? That it is all female artists is enough for it to be powerful…

Yeah, I would get messages asking: what’s the theme? What do I have to stick by? For me, the fact that it was a female art show was enough. I don’t want to restrict it any more than that. It’s a platform for females to do what they want to do. There’s no rules after that. Just do what’s on your mind, do what feels right in the moment. That’s what I’ve done and it seems to work so far.

That’s kind of the philosophy that runs through it all?

I don’t feel like I’ve been in enough art shows to know what I’m doing, I don’t know how I’m pulling it off! Other than when I was at university, I’ve been in very few art shows, so my experience with running them is that I’m just a very kind of organised person, I know how I like things and that’s how I’m doing it. I’m not really sure how other people have worked in the past with shows, but I get so many emails asking is this going to be OK? Is this going to work? Or saying: I’ve done this now, I’m worried. My response is always, it’s cool! It will work! It’s going to work! I just have this mindset that it’s going to work no matter what happens, so don’t stress. If I’m not stressing, you shouldn’t be stressing!

In the past, there might have been a tendency to follow a traditional approach, so I think that by not adhering to conventional rules, it reflects where this city is now. Speaking of where it’s at, you’ve got a new venue for this for this show as well…

I’m in the old Green Lane which is the new Clubhouse Creative. Originally the first More was supposed to be there and I got a bit panicked about the walls and thought maybe I just need to start small. But this time around I was like, I can do this now. I want more artists. I want to give more people the option to be involved. The walls are massive so people can submit bigger pieces as well, because last time some artists enjoyed the challenge to do something around the A3 size, but this time they wanted to go big or go home. So, to put it in a warehouse was exciting. I love that kind of grimy, dirty look as well. I’m not so much into white walls. I like off-white, dirty walls with texture…

It also brings up the possibility to think beyond hanging a piece on a wall, maybe more object art, or works that sprawl out in different forms, almost like installations. Now that you have more room you can have a broader scope of display. Have those conversations come up?

There’s been a bit of talk about live art and things like that, like we did with Peanut Butter & Jam. I’ve got a bit of a performance for the opening night with people hula hooping and things like that and there will be a DJ, but I didn’t go down the line of live art this time. I think the whole Hello, I am The Show idea is something that I really want to keep developing and working on and I think for the new year, my goal is to get somebody else on board that can help me with extra little touches to just go bigger. This time around there is like 35 female artists, I know, it has got too much again! Doing the socials, making sure everybody’s kept in the loop, all of that is so important to me and every time I bite more off than I can chew! So, I need to get somebody else on board. Someone who is just as passionate and also doesn’t mind putting in a lot of work for not a lot of money! But there are a lot of good feelings that you get back instead!

Do you think you will explore individual shows, or is the concept strongly collaborative and sort of community-based?

My idea is not collaboration as such, it’s the pop-up idea that I love: here’s a space, let’s pop something up for a couple of days then it can disappear again, kind of like street art, you know? You don’t know how long it’s going be there, so you have got to go and see it. So, I would love to work with individual shows and things like that in that context, with like a tent or a caravan maybe that appears around town.

Give us your best sales pitch for Even More: The Show!

I’ve drawn a blank! No, here: Even More: The Show. Female artists from around Ōtautahi. Opening night is on Thursday 14th October, 5:30 to 8:00pm. There will be wine, there will be beer. There is going to be such a broad selection of art, there will literally be something for everybody. Big things, tiny things, beautiful things, sparkly things, clothes… It’s on for two days after opening night, so you have got to get in there, that’s the fun of it!

Thanks Lydia!

Get down to Clubhouse Creative (22 Southwark Street) on Thursday, 14th October, 2021 for the opening of Even More: The Show, from 5:30pm to 8:00pm. Even More: The Show is open 15th – 16th October. For more information, head to Hello. I am the Show on Facebook

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And That Was… September 2021 – with Cape of Storms

To recap September we caught up with Cape of Storms, our favourite street collage paster-upperer! You will know Cape’s paste-ups, even if you don’t realise it, they utilise vintage cooking books, kitsch knitting images and more retro finds to create whimsical juxtapositions that are at once funny and mysterious, adding that sense of wondrous inquisition as they appear across the city, revealing the absurdity of life. As I suspect it was for many of us, Cape of Storms’ September was hectic, catching up on a life that was put on pause… So, what was keeping Cape of Storms busy? Read on and find out…

September was a blur.  My recollection of how the month passed by is somehow not linear.  I remember key events, like feeding my best friend’s new baby girl for the first time, dressing up and going out for a special meal with my partner at Soul Quarter just after we passed into level 2.  Going back to the gym, the stress and irritation around how and when to mask up. But most of all, I remember the build-up and anticipation, coordination, ultimate execution of of MOVING HOUSE.

Moving house is awful.  It confronts you with all your life decisions and lifestyle choices and forces you to judge yourself as you pack up your life, box by box (well, at least for me anyway!).

I arrived in New Zealand just under three years ago with two suitcases full of clothes, a racing heart and a head full of dreams for my new future.  For the first few weeks I muddled by sleeping on the floor on a blow-up mattress, eating at a rusty camping table and managing the delicate balance of ice-to-water ratio in a chilly bin.

Slowly and steadily I started to accumulate stuff. Four months after relocating from Cape Town, four modest boxes arrived by sea, filled with precious kitchen and household items from my previous home.

Fast-forward to September 2021 and van- load upon van-load of stuff needs to be ferried from the old house to the new house, multiple trips to Ecodrop required, $850 raised in Facebook marketplace sales and days and days of sorting, cleaning and reorganising.

And what did I learn about myself during this process? Well, a quite a few important things actually.

Friends, and friends who have become like family are my “home” in this new country.  The physical objects I own only carry meaning for me if they are linked to how I can interact with the important people in my life, or bring me comfort and act as reminders of special memories shared with the people who are no longer physically present due to distance and time zones.  Being a bit of a clutter-bug, I was amazed at how easily I was able to get rid of things that did not meet these requirements, and how important the objects that remind me of my home country and family actually are.

My home environment has become very important to me.  This space has become my nest, my anchor which I can categorically call “my own”.  Where I can express my personality and recharge.  Taking the time to curate my space a bit better and only surround myself with things I truly need has been wonderful.  Also, realising that my space is now shared with my partner makes this even more special as we create a life together.

When my life was in limbo for a few weeks, I really craved my routine and the activities that mean the most to me, the things that create balance in my day.  For me, that was “studio”/workspace area back in order.  This move has been really great as I have now seriously upgraded my work space and I really look forward to a lot of productive time being creative on a day-to-day basis, as I’m trying to incorporate making/creating into my daily routine.  Another big one was realising how important regularly connecting with my fellow artist friends at weekly Slapcity meetups are to me.  Slapcity is a group (I won’t use the dreaded word “collective”) of like-minded artist friends with a passion for street art.  Some artists focus on sticker making, some on paper paste-ups, some on graffiti writing, some on drawing – but honestly any medium is welcomed.  We get together every Wednesday evening to chat and do a little bit of work on whatever we feel like really, usually with a beer or cold beverage in hand.

So September was for the most part spent preoccupied with the move, but by no means all that I got up to…

Danny Knight-Baré at PB & JAM

Something that’s been preoccupying me throughout September is Slapcity member Danny Knight-Baré’s stunningly intricate multi-layered screen-printed pieces I saw at the PB & Jam show in mid-August.  At first glance you would mistake the abstract colour-blocked pieces for digital prints, but once you realise that each line and dot have actually been screen-printed onto the surface, sometimes in up to 23 layers you truly realise their genius.  I could stare at those textures and colours for hours.  PB & Jam was an awesome group art and music show put together by the gorgeous Lydia Thomas (another Slapcity member!).

The return of Slapcity Wednesday nights!

Level 3 saw us getting together via Zoom calls, but a return to Level 2 meant face to face meet-ups again!  The pleasant sound of scissors snipping, vinyl cutting, the heavy smell of marker pen ink hanging in the air, good tunes playing in the background and our inane and random chatter is the definition of my happy place.  It’s a totally relaxed and free environment, and I just feel so recharged and energised after every session.  We alternate between the workspace at Fiksate Gallery and a few other locations around Christchurch central.  New members are always welcome.  Check out the Insta page for more info.

Lazy weekend brunch/lunch at Unknown Chapter

(Image from Unknown Chapter’s Facebook page)

Mine and my partner’s favourite brunch spot on St Asaph Street in the central city.  Excellent coffee and yummy fresh food (especially in the cabinet), all in all a beautifully decorated hanging plant-filled space.  The hanging plant jungle that covers the entire ceiling of the café has Millenials and Gen Zs frothing at the mouth, but looking beyond this #hashtag nirvana, the food, coffee and service is really amazing.  Our favourites are the Eggs Benedict, the Salad bowl with halloumi and the Florentines from the cabinet.

Aussie art rock and my trusty Blundies

I’ve had Twilight Driving by Methyl Ethel on repeat on a daily basis.  I just can’t get enough of Jake Well’s gender-bendingly unique voice and the haunting lyrics.  I’ve been listening to a lot of Holy Holy as well.  Coupled with the fact that I have been wearing my beloved brown Blundstone boots so much that I’ve had to introduce “rest days” for them is making me question my loyalty to this Antipodean island in favour of the other, larger, hotter one.  But then I think of those poor sods in Melbourne and happily return to sipping my flat white and dunking my ginger slice.  Also, Blundstones are actually made in Vietnam now…

Preparation for EVEN MORE THE SHOW (15-16 October)

Trawling op shops for old textiles.  Saturday morning hours lost inside the labyrinth of Creative Junk.  Clandestine printing missions at my office photocopier.  Gluing things to other things.  Figuring out how to paint and paste onto old biscuit tins and suit cases.  All in preparation for Even More The Show, opening Thursday, 14th October (and running through the 15th and 16th) at Club House Creative on Southwark Street.  Even More The Show is yet another group show organised by the charming Irish creative dynamo Lydia Thomas.  I was so stoked to be invited to take part, and it is made all the more special by the fact that proceeds made from the show will go to Youthline.  Quite a few of my local female artist friends will also be taking part, its going to be a hell of a lot of fun!

Follow Cape of Storms on Instagram and check out her work with a heap of talented local creatives in Even More The Show this week!

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